The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

May your liquor be cold, your women be hot, and may all of your problems just slide off like snot.

I live in an area where there are thousands millions of homeless. They swarm around the local bar scene and scavenge off the drunks who flock to my neighborhood during the weekend. If you are out during the much slower weekdays, it is likely that you'll get panhandled every block or two.

It freaked my wife out when we first moved here, but she's gotten used to it. Locals become accustomed to dealing with the homeless and generally know how to lessen their risk exposure. We know that ignoring a homeless person can be more dangerous than rejecting one, and that the unwritten rule is that once you reject a bum attempt, the solicitation is over and the bum must move along. My wife has also learned that it's best to be accompanied by a 6'+ male who tips the scales at well over 200 lbs.

My neighborhood has a reputation for being dangerous because of the homeless, but that's just not what I've seen. I have walked these streets almost daily and nightly for a year and a half and have never had any problems. In fact, the only people in danger from the homeless, usually, are other homeless.

I have an acquaintance named "Ben" who has been homeless for a couple of years. Ben is an eloquent, educated, 30ish black male who is probably 130 lbs soaking wet. He is what I refer to as "homeless by choice," in that he could get off the street in a matter of weeks, but he consciously or subconsciously refuses to do so. Ben gets a job every now and then, but loses it just as quickly. In fact, he's a hell of a drawer/painter who sometimes designs murals for local bars and restaurants, but that gig never lasts very long. We originally met at a bar I frequent, and after several conversations we struck up a "friendship" of some kind.

Ben was constantly getting his ass kicked by both the straights and the homeless. For some reason, some drinkers like to assault the homeless. One night when Ben was asking a guy for a light, the guy pretended to be pulling out a lighter and nailed Ben in the jaw instead. Ben went down with a chipped tooth and a fractured wrist. On another occasion, another homeless guy Ben was talking to beat him up for not apparent reason, once against messing up Ben's wrist.

I liked the guy and would give him a few bucks when I saw him, but eventually he started showing up at the bar I frequent and asking for me. Every time I went outside to talk to him, he eventually asked for a handout. It didn't take me long to realize I was a regular thing, which resulted in me refusing his requests. About this time, several of the area restaurants began actively harassing the homeless in a successful attempt to drive them out of the area, and Ben was constantly being harassed by the police as a result.

5 or 6 months ago, Ben just disappeared. I assumed he had moved on and went on about my business.

A couple of nights ago, I noticed that I probably didn't have enough gas to get to work the next morning, so around midnight I drove to the closest open gas station to fill up. Needless to say, the gas station wasn't in the best area of town. I pull up to the open pumps and there's this homeless guy -- black, small, and about 50-years old -- filling the tank of another car. As soon as I get out of the truck, he walks over to me and asks if he can fill my car up for a couple of bucks. I turned him down, but gave him a couple of bucks anyway. As I filled my tank the following conversation took place.

Do you know a homeless guy named "Ben"?
You sure? He's about 30, small, educated . . .
Oh! You mean Artist.
Yeah, that's him.
I heard today that he got himself killed last night.
Wait. Artist is dead?
Naw, I just heard that he got killed.
So he's OK?
Naw, he got beat up pretty bad by some white boys.
Because he was with some white girl.
Damn. Well, if you see him, tell him Centinel was asking about him.
[Eyes light up] You Centinel from ________ neighborhood?
Damn, man, Artist talk about you all the time. He say you good people.
I guess it's true, some seek greatness, and others have it thrust upon them.
Centinel 3:16 PM #


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